Spent the weekend up doing the Yountville shuffle. Here's my blog brief.
Yountville might feel like a planned community (of restaurants and resorts) rather than real place where real people live and dine (and get spa treatments). But it doesn't seem to detract from its ability to continue to be the big destination in the Napa Valley. (Thanks, French Laundry.)
And while you might be able to actually get reservations at the FL now, Bottega might be the new month-out reservation. I'm not sure Michael Chiarello's taking away from Thomas Keller's eternal appeal, but Chiarello's take on rustic Italian—sure has hit the ground running. It's food that's recognizable, approachable and perfect for both tourists and people looking for comfort. First you buy a mattone (yes, you too can cook authentic chicken-under-a-brick at home) at Napa Style, Chiarello's store. Then you walk two steps away and dine on Chiarello's food. Then you buy the book. Then you go home and watch him on TV. It's the Napa style.
Around 4:30, we sat down at the Bottega bar for some tentacles: a plate of fried calamari and some grilled octopus salad and watched the restaurant actually fill up by 5:30. People that follow TV food personalities seem to dine early. Chiarello's going to do just fine here. The wine list is very cheap. After you have some wine, you can go lie down on the nicely manicured, plush lawns. Or at least I did.
After Bottega, we went across the street to Bardessono—one of the greenest luxury resorts in the US, which opened at the beginning of February. They had kindly offered a night for me to stay and check it out. Starkly modern, with beautiful landscaping including very Japanese water elements (streams, rocks, trickling fountains) and flowering tulip trees, the new resort has been fashioned out of reclaimed wood from Evan Shively's property (nothing outside of the 100 mile radius) and stone from the Bardessono family's property. As for the food, Sean O'Toole is the restaurant's talented chef (his last gig was as the group operations chef Michael Mina group). And Cristina Salas-Porras came on to oversee everything from guest experience to interior design, six months ago. The former right-hand woman of Alice Waters is making sure good taste prevails on the property. Witness the coffee delivered to the room: Blue Bottle in a French press. There will also be wood oven–fired pizza being made poolside.